They were looking after themselves, living with rigid economy; and there was no greater proof of their friendship than the way their harmony withstood their very grave differences in domestic behaviour. In Jack’s opinion Stephen was little better than a slut: his papers, odd bits of dry, garlic’d bread, his razors and small-clothes lay on and about his private table in a miserable squalor; and from the appearance of the grizzled wig that was now acting as a tea-cosy for his milk-saucepan, it was clear that he had breakfasted on marmalade.
Jack took off his coat, covered his waistcoat and breeches with an apron, and carried the dishes to the scullery. ‘My plate and saucer will serve again,’ said Stephen. ‘I have blown upon them. I do wish, Jack,’ he cried, ‘that you would leave that milk-saucepan alone. It is perfectly clean. What more sanitary, what more wholesome, than scalded milk? Will I dry up?’ he called through the open door.
‘No, no,’ cried Jack, who had seen him do so. ‘There is no room — it is nearly done. Just attend to the fire, will you?’
‘We might have some music,’ said Stephen. ‘Your friend’s piano is in tolerable tune, and I have found a German flute. What are you doing now?’
‘Swabbing out the galley. Give me five minutes, and I am your man.’
‘It sounds more like Noah’s flood. This peevish attention to cleanliness, Jack, this busy preoccupation with dirt,’ said Stephen, shaking his head at the fire, ‘has something of the Brahminical superstition about it. It is not very far removed from nastiness, Jack — from cacothymia.’
‘I am concerned to hear it,’ said Jack. ‘Pray, is it catching?’ he added, with a private but sweet-natured leer.
Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian